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The Independent Culture
BBC2'S CONTROVERSIAL fly-on-the-wall documentary series, Mersey Blues continues to raise Pandora's well-plucked eyebrows. The show is supposed to illustrate the difficult job the police have on the front line, but instead it is developing into a version of The Keystone Cops. Wednesday night's episode was a real classic. It starred a fat, hard-bitten cop tucking into plates of Chinese food. But the gourmet Detective Inspector, Elmore "Elly" Davies, is currently residing at Her Majesty's Pleasure for perverting the course of justice.

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THE EVIDENCE at Elly's trial included his tape-recorded boast that his back "injury" would allow him to retire early "on a nice pension - pounds 500 a week in my hand just for sitting on my extremely fat arse". A spokesman for the Merseyside Police told Pandora that the programme had not affected morale in the force: "We haven't had any adverse reaction. In fact, most people think that it shows a group of dedicated, hard-working officers who are very committed to the job they do."

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JOHNNY DEPP has developed a weakness for the mind-bending drink absinthe, the 70 per cent proof liquor popular among deep thinkers in 19th-century Paris. Depp ordered two crates of the drink before Christmas and another five this week. He sent some to his newest best friend, Hunter S Thompson. A music PR was later on the phone to Thompson, as he proceeded to drink the green liquid while describing its exact effects. Those responsible for bringing the drink back into circulation are the founders of The Idler magazine, who are putting together advertising slogans such as "Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1899".

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THE LATEST offering from the free-market think-tank the Social Market Foundation might at first sight set pulses racing. However, "The rise and fall of the Swedish model" by Mauricio Rojas promises more than it is. The racy tome documents the fortunes of Sweden's version of the Third Way rather than a history of Scandinavian glamour.

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FURTHER EVIDENCE of the music world's disenchantment with Cool Britannia was to be found at the NME Premier Awards. Pandora was among the audience at the Virgin Haymarket, to see the music paper's documentary. It included a criticism of the Government on tuition fees and welfare reform. The thrusting audience was told that Tony Blair was "invited to comment on criticism of government policy but declined to take part". Not so, Downing Street told Pandora. "If we had been asked to comment on these issues we would have done." But NME's editor, Steve Sutherland, was adamant that an honest approach had been made, telling Pandora: "We did all that we could to get the Prime Minister on."

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A FRESH look at one Liberal Democrat internal party contest held last year gives an interesting slant to the race to succeed Paddy Ashdown. Results for the 1998 Federal Executive, an important steering group for the party, show the Taunton MP, Jackie Ballard, topping the poll over 33 other candidates. As Pandora has already pointed out, Ballard is a good bet to enter the race, but what of front-runner Charles Kennedy? Although succeeding in getting elected to the executive body, which runs elections on an STV basis, Kennedy comes in behind Old Liberal stalwart Tony Greaves. A fine achievement for Greaves, considering that his election literature was withdrawn by the executive's adjudicators.

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CANDY ATHERTON, Labour MP for Falmouth and Cranborne, has eschewed the boring business of flat- sharing in favour of a 50ft narrowboat, to be moored as close as possible to the House of Commons without upsetting the view from the Speaker's apartments. The boat, currently jammed between two French naval vessels close to Pandora at Canary Wharf, will be named The Honourable Lady.

Contact Pandora at: pandora@ independent.co.uk

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